As he did 28 years ago with “I Dig Rock and Roll Music,” Noel (Paul) Stookey pokes fun at the music industry and, in a way, himself on “Old Enough (Ode to an Aging Rocker).”
The track off Peter, Paul & Mary’s faithful-to-folk album, “PP M& (LifeLines),” out April 11 on Warner Bros., puts it all in perspective with clinchers like, “My generation has rediscovered me/Now I’m on the cover of Modern Maturity” and “I’m picking up strange vibrations/I hear my songs now on oldies stations.”
Stookey said it’s not uncommon for artists, even those with the stature of Peter, Paul & Mary, to deal with a fading image as they move out of the limelight.
“But then I came to grips with the fact that folk music really doesn’t die,” he said recently from his Massachusetts home. “I think we were popularizers more than innovators, frankly, and I wonder if we really still aren’t.
“We certainly bring an earnest desire on our parts to communicate the music, and perhaps after 35 years we’ve gotten good at that.”
Since forming in New York in 1960, PP&M have been one of the best-selling folk acts: Eight albums have sold 1 million or more copies each; their self-titled debut spent seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart; they’ve had six Top 10 singles, including “Puff (The Magic Dragon)” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and their last chart hit, “Leaving On a Jet Plane,” went No. 1 in 1969.
On “PP M& (LifeLines),” it all comes full circle for the trio, Stookey said. With Phil Ramone at the helm (he produced their heralded “Album 1700” in 1967), they bend but don’t break the folk rules in teaming with such legends as B.B. King, Judy Collins, Carly Simon, Emmylou Harris, Richie Havens, and most amazing of all, the remaining members of The Weavers (Pete Seeger, Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert).
After a few relatively successful albums since reuniting in 1978, they never had doubts they had this kind of album still in them, Stookey said.
“So much of it is the material,” he said. “We knew we could perform, but the fact that all of this material should end up on the same album, that’s the surprise. I don’t think we knew what a terrific album we had until we finished it.”
The three have been touring, off and on, since late February. Of the upcoming dates, the most intriguing comes May 4 at Kent State University on the 25th anniversary of the National Guard shootings.
BWF (before we forget): The Peter, Paul & Mary album discography – “Peter, Paul & Mary” (Warner, 1962); “Moving” (1963); “In the Wind” (1963); “In Concert” (1965); “A Song Will Rise” (1965); “See What Tomorrow Brings” (1965); “Album” (1966); “Album 1700” (1967); “Late Again” (1968); “Peter, Paul & Mommy” (1969); “10 Years Together” (1970); “Reunion” (1978); “No Easy Walk to Freedom” (Gold Castle, 1986); “Holiday Concert” (1988); “Flowers and Stones” (1990); “Peter, Paul and Mommy, Too” (Warner, 1993); “PP M& (LifeLines)” (1995); “LifeLines Live” (1996).
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